There will be those who will claim Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s just announced trip to Israel this month will trump Mitt Romney’s visit later this summer. We will be told this will be evidence of the power of incumbency and the sweet talk uttered by Clinton will balance if not overshadow anything Romney might do or say. But that will be nothing but Democrat spin. Clinton’s trip will not only do nothing to ease President Obama’s difficulties with pro-Israel voters. The decision to send the secretary rather than the president finally breaking down and making his first stop in the Jewish state — something obviously in his political interests as well as a smart foreign policy move — only emphasizes the coolness in relations between the two countries during the past three and a half years.
Stopping in the one foreign country where Romney is more popular than the president won’t turn the election, but it does draw attention to the generally frigid atmosphere between Obama and the Israeli government. But nothing Clinton does or says on her visit can alter the impression of hostility that was the keynote of the U.S. attitude toward Israel prior to the start of the president’s re-election campaign. The one thing lacking from the election year Jewish charm offensive is any evidence of genuine warmth or a sense from the president he understands or sympathizes with Israel’s dilemma despite occasional rhetorical thrusts in that direction. A visit to Israel could perhaps help with that, but Israel is apparently the one American ally Obama refuses to call on even if he is already in the neighborhood. A Clinton stopover there won’t make up for that.